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NBC Gets Close to a Sellout

Television: Network nears its goal in advertising revenue and expects to dominate ratings.


Randy Falco, the president of NBC and the chief operating officer for the network's Olympic coverage, said Tuesday that the network is very close to its goal of $720 million in advertising revenue for the Winter Olympics that begin Feb. 8.

"We are 98% sold out and should hit our goal in the next several days," Falco said from Salt Lake City in a televised conference call.

Falco said the $720 million is 40% higher than the advertising revenue generated by the last Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, in 1998, televised by CBS. He also said it's higher than what NBC's Summer Games at Atlanta in 1996 brought in.

"And we had a third more prime-time hours in Atlanta," he said.

There will be 31/2 hours of prime-time coverage nightly from Salt Lake City, rather than the five hours NBC offered from Atlanta and Sydney, Australia, in 2000.

NBC's Salt Lake City coverage will be live in most of the country but delayed in the West.

NBC will spend about $645 million on production.

Figuring other costs, the network should realize a profit of $60-65 million, which, according to Falco, is close to the profit for Sydney and Atlanta.

"To provide a perspective of what the Olympic Games mean to NBC, we will have the top 10 most-watched TV events during the 17 days [of the Games]," Falco said .

"There will be 180 million unique viewers during the Games, with two-thirds of all Americans tuning in to some portion.

"We will dominate in prime time, winning every day and winning every hour, which is pretty extraordinary.

"To give you a sense of the weight of the Olympic Games, it's akin to having seven Super Bowls during that time."

The Super Bowl, which will be televised by Fox on Sunday, is expected to generate $200-225 million in advertising revenue.

Although this Super Bowl has been a tough sell and Fox has had to give some advertisers a discounted rate, John Nesvig, the head of sales for Fox, said the game is expected to sell out before the end of the week.

Falco said NBC took two surveys, asking viewers about their intent to watch the Olympics.

"One survey was taken shortly after Sept. 11 and the other was taken only a few days ago," he said. "What both showed is that 80-90% of all Americans intend to watch the Olympics, and those are the kind of numbers we were getting leading up to Atlanta.

"The best part is that the numbers for the 18-34 age group were the same as those for older groups, and that is a terrific story for us."

Falco said that with the Olympics as a lead-in, NBC-owned stations and network affiliates will get a 40% boost in viewership for their local newscasts.

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